Animated Jack-o’-Lantern Really Connects

Days past people used to just carve a scary face in a pumpkin, drop in a candle and call it a day, but for our kind of crowd that’s not going to cut it. [Alexis] stuffed this Jack o Lantern with a lot of brain power and even connected it up to the internet for community control.

At the core of the festive decoration is a spark core, which allows micro controlled special effects to be triggered via Twitter. RGB LED’s change colors, flicker and flash and even a spooky ghost pops out of the top. Along with all that, a sound sensor is added in so the lights can react to the ambient sound around the lantern.

If you get too close an ultrasonic sensor will trigger the ghoulish treat with lights and animation, but what about spooky sounds? That is also included thanks to a toy found at the local discount store, which had its guts removed and its trigger button replaced with a transistor.

Now sights and sounds can all be controlled remotely or in an active response mode to entertain all the little goblins visiting the house this Halloween. Join us after the break for a quick demo video and don’t forget to send in links to your own pumpkin-based hacks this week!

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A Wooden Based, CD Stepper Scribbler

[Rohit Gupta] is back with a plotter made from scrap CD drives and an old RC servo. [Rohit] is working on hacks to create CNC machines and sharing his activities with the world. His CNC design calls for salvaged stepper motors so he first built a device for testing them. You’ve got to admire his use of the language. He named his plotter project ‘Sketchy’ and his motor tester is called ‘Easy Peasy’.

sketchyAfter finding some CD drives at the scrap pile he tore them down to test with Easy Peasy. The raw materials for the frame came from a wooden crate for an AC unit but he didn’t just start cutting it up. Nope, first he created plans with CAD; now that’s a hack you have to admire.

With the steppers tested working, and the base build under way he moved onto the control system. Originally the hardware was demonstrated using an MSP430. This worked, but a flaw in the hardware design was found. With the pen attached directly to the servo horn, it would draw a long line when being rotated away from the drawing position.

The fix is a replacement servo setup which lifts the pen up instead of rotating it. But that showed that the drawing surface wasn’t smooth. The pen kept missing places or getting caught and destroyed. The use of a spring loaded pen solved this issue. Success!

One further change migrated away from the MSP430 in favor of an Arduino Pro Mini in order to use a GRBL library instead of the g-code generator which was performing questionably. Since he likes Hackaday so much one of his first attempts with the final version of Sketchy was our logo, shown in the video after the break.

When we last saw [Rohit] he had created a fancy PCB ruler to measure components.

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Superbike gets Bootstrapped Instrument Refit

[Josh] got rid of the standard, factory gauges on his GSXR Super-bike and installed a custom built instrument panel which displays some additional parameters which the regular instrumentation cluster did not. He was working on converting his bike in to a Streetfighter – a stripped down, aggressive, mean machine. The staid looking gauges had to go, besides several other mods to give his bike the right look.

GSXR_03Luckily, he had the right skills and tools available to make sure this DIY hack lives up to the Streetfighter cred of his bike. The important parameter for him was to log the Air / Fuel mixture ratio so he could work on the carburation. Along the way, he seems to have gone a bit overboard with this build, but the end result is quite nice. The build centers around a Planar 160×80 EL graphic display lying in his parts bin. The display didn’t have a controller, so he used the Epson S1D13700 graphic controller to interface it with the microcontroller. An Atmel ATmega128L runs the system, and [Josh] wrote all of his code in “C”.

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Flashed the wrong firmware? Swap out the LCD to match!

We always joke about the hardware guys saying that they’ll fix it in firmware, and vice-versa, but this is ridiculous. When [Igor] tried to update his oscilloscope and flashed the wrong firmware version in by mistake, he didn’t fix it in firmware. Instead, he upgraded the LCD display to match the firmware.

See, Siglent doesn’t make [Igor]’s DSO any more; they stopped using the 4:3 aspect ratio screens and replaced them with wider versions. Of course, this is an improvement for anyone buying a new scope, but not if you’ve got the small screen in yours and can’t see anything anymore. After playing around with flashing other company’s firmware (for a similar scope) and failing to get it done over the JTAG, he gave up on the firmware and started looking for a hardware solution.

It turns out that a few SMT resistors set the output screen resolution. After desoldering the appropriate resistors, [Igor] bought a new 7″ LCD screen online only to find out that it has a high-voltage backlight and that he’d need to build an inverter (and hide the noisy circuit inside his oscilloscope). Not daunted, he went digging through his junk box until he found a backlight panel of the right size from another display.

Yet more small soldering, and he had frankensteined a new backlight into place. Of course, the larger LCD won’t fit the case without some cutting, double-sided tape, and a healthy dose of black tape all around insulates the loose electricals. Et voilá!

We have to hand it to [Igor], he’s got moxie. It’s an ugly hack, but it’s a definite screen upgrade, and a lesser hacker would have stopped after flashing the wrong firmware and thrown the thing in the trash. We’d be proud to have that scope sitting on our desk; it’s a definite conversation starter, and a badge of courage to boot.

If We Were All Astronomers There’d Be No More War

We recently reported on the amateur scientific work of Forrest Mims. Forrest is somewhat unique in being an amateur scientist who has consistently published his work in leading scientific journals. One area of scientific investigation has however attracted amateur scientific contributions of the highest quality almost since its inception, amateur astronomy.

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Will Hay – Amateur Astronomer

You’ve likely heard of amateur astronomers like David Levy co-discoverer of the Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 comet, and citizen science projects like galaxy zoo. But the history of amateur astronomy goes back far further than this, in fact as far back as 1781 William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus while employed as a Musician. Another entertainer of sorts, 1930s British comic actor, Will Hay, also made significant contributions discovering a “Great White Spot” on Saturn in-between films roles. Will was an avid amateur astronomer who regularly published his observations.

His belief that astronomy allows us to see humanity’s place in the universe in its true proportion led him to claim “If we were all astronomers there’d be no more war”.

While Will recorded his observations, hand drawn, in a log book. Modern astronomers digitally image the night sky. Digital cameras are of course optimized around the human visual system (as we recently discussed) making them less than ideal for astrophotography. Hackers have therefore made a number of innovations, one of the more audacious being the removal of the Bayer filter:

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Amazing Workshops of the SuperCon

We have been amazed by all of the talented people who submitted workshop proposals for the Hackaday SuperConference. With proposals made, and invitations accepted it’s time to announce the full slate of workshops you’ll find at this epic event.

For those just tuning in, Hackaday will host the hardware con you’ve been waiting for on November 14th and 15th at DogPatch Studios in San Francisco. The gorgeous venue will be packed with amazing people, both presenters and attendees. A single talk track will run the entire weekend while multiple workshops run on a different floor.

Put yourself in the middle of it all and be amazed by all we have in store. Apply for your ticket now!

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Applications for the Bitcoin Blockchain

Bitcoin, the libertarian’s dream currency, is far past the heady days of late 2013. When one Bitcoin was worth $1000 USD, there was no end to what could be done; new, gigantic mining rigs were being created, every online store jumped onto the bandwagon, and the price of Bitcoin inevitably crashed. Right now, the exchange rate sits at about $280 USD per coin, valuing all the Bitcoins ever mined somewhere around $4 Billion USD. That’s a lot of coins out there, and a lot of miners constantly verifying the integrity of the greatest thing to come from the Bitcoin community: the blockchain.

The bitcoin is just a record, or the ledger, of every transaction that has ever occurred on the Bitcoin network. It’s distributed, and the act of mining coins creates new blocks, or another set of data committed to the blockchain for eternity. While magical Internet money™ is by far the most visible product of the blockchain, developers, investors, and other people in the know are gushing about the possibilities of what can be done with a distributed record that can’t practically be altered and can’t be deleted.

[Jon Matonis], a figurehead for the entire cryptocurrency movement, recently said Bitcoin has become the strongest computer in the world, and stronger than all of the top 500 supercomputers combined. All of this computational power is effectively funneled in to verifying the integrity of the blockchain.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not just a completely anonymous payment system; that’s only a side effect of the blockchain. The blockchain is the only inherently valuable part of a bitcoin; each transaction is logged in the blockchain, providing incredible security over how every coin is spent. No currency in the history of mankind has ever had a record of how every dollar or denarius is spent, and at the very least makes for very interesting economics research. Now, thousands of researchers across the globe are wondering what else the blockchain can do; tapping the power of the most powerful computer on the planet must have some interesting applications, and in the last few months, a few ideas have popped up.

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